Category: For authors


Addressing the mysteries of e-publishing

By Midge Raymond,

Ashland Creek Press was delighted to be a part of a workshop on e-publishing last weekend at the Ashland Public Library, where authors, editors, and publishers gathered to talk about the ins and outs of e-publishing, from editorial to production to marketing.

Author Tim Wohlforth began with a State of Mystery (also a State of Publishing) address, which highlighted the fact that e-books are rapidly gaining momentum (the triple-digit percentage increases in sales have only recently begun to level off), as well as the fact that mysteries remain a bestselling genre, second only to romance. After his remarks on all the recent trends in publishing, Tim concluded with a great bit of advice for writers: Don’t get caught up in what the latest trend in mystery is. “Write what you want to write,” he advised.

We heard next from LJ Sellers, an award-winning journalist who is now a full-time author. She talked about her experiences getting her books out into the world and how she spent $12,000 on self-publishing her first novel, The Sex Club; now, thanks to user-friendly strides in digital and self-publishing, she spends an average of $600 on each. And she’s living every writer’s dream: making a living off her books. As this Mail Tribune article notes, last year, LJ’s e-books were on the Amazon Kindle bestseller crime fiction list for three months, and she estimates she has sold about 150,000 e-books in the last two years. LJ pointed out something that is important for all author-entrepreneurs to know: that she is as much businesswoman as she is author. She pointed out that she views her books as “products, not children,” and noted that this means she doesn’t hesitate to fix what may need fixing if a book isn’t selling well, whether it’s the cover copy or the keywords or even the title. Her parting advice: “Be flexible, be a risk taker, be social [as in social media], and be thick-skinned.” (By the way, I just began reading her novel The Sex Club — loving it so far!)

Author Michael Niemann gave an insightful presentation on the mechanics of creating e-books on the two most common formats, ePub and Mobi — a great overview for any author or small publisher interested in e-publishing.  Then Ken Lewis, of Krill Press, and I talked about marketing and promotion. I chatted a lot about social media and virtual book tours, and we got a great tip later from writer and photographer Liza Kendall Christian on how writers can use Pinterest in a fun way: As well as  a cover image, post a few of the best lines from your book.

Ken and I both pointed out that, ultimately, the most important thing about promotion is to have an excellent book. I especially enjoyed what Ken had to say about the importance of titles: Authors need to have titles that stand out among the rest, and cover art to match. He told the story of one of Krill Press’s popular mystery titles, formerly Full Circle, now titled Absinthe Of Malice (A Penny Mackenzie Mystery), and how good titles, matched with engaging covers, have made all the difference in selling mysteries.

After the presentations, we broke out into smaller sessions in which we got to chat with authors, answer questions, and learn more about the state of mystery — a lovely afternoon. A million thanks the event’s sponsors: the Ashland Mystery Readers GroupFriends of the Ashland Public LibraryStanding Stone Brewing Company, and Bookwagon New and Used Books.

Jane Friedman defines “author platform”

By Midge Raymond,

I couldn’t possibly define “author platform” any better than Jane Friedman does in this blog post, so I won’t even try. This is truly a post that anyone who wants to publish a book should read — even better, prospective authors should read this long before publication is on the horizon.

Whether fiction or nonfiction, books usually take a while to write — years, in most cases. Yet somehow, many authors seem to be rapidly approaching their publication dates before realizing they have to build a platform (a few years ago, this was me). And as Jane so accurately points out, building a platform does not happen overnight: In fact, a solid platform takes years to build (especially if you want to avoid all that she tell us a platform is not, such as “hard selling” and “annoying people,” which no author wants to do).

I have to admit that I began writing and publishing stories even before a “platform” was the first thing an editor or agent asked about. I didn’t know (or care) about having one — but fortunately for me, by the time I had a book contract, I discovered that I sort of did have one. I was a teacher who was developing a mailing list and writing a blog; I’d published stories in dozens of magazines and journals. Today, I work to keep up with all these things, including writing nonfiction articles, and even a book, on the creative process. I’m on Facebook and Twitter (a little reluctantly sometimes) and even though all this takes time away from writing, it’s all so important as it can still be a challenge for an author to find her audience.

For all of you out there who are still working on your books, know that it’s never to early to think about your platform. So many authors think that marketing isn’t their job, that it’s only about the writing — yet this couldn’t be further from reality (again, it’s not unusual for an agent or editor to consider platform even before writing). This isn’t to say that a platform should come first, only that it’s something that needs to be developed along with your creative project so that when your book is ready for the world, so are you as a writer. After all, what’s the good in writing that book when you’re not in a good position to find all the readers you possibly can?

As Jane tells us, “It’ll be a long journey.” Start now, and you’ll be able to take your time and even have a little fun.

On Seattle Wrote: DOs and DON’Ts for writing queries

By Midge Raymond,

Welcome to the third and final installment of our guest post series on the fabulous Seattle Wrote blog, where Norelle Done has graciously hosted us over the last few weeks as we’ve offered info and tips for authors about publishing. This last post is a list of DOs and DON’Ts for authors writing query letters to agents and editors … it’s not necessarily a comprehensive list, but it contains some of the most common errors I’ve seen over the many years I’ve been an editor, whether reading short stories for literary magazines or reading submissions here at Ashland Creek Press.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, let us know. We’ll post your Q and our A in an upcoming Ask the Editor post.

And be sure to stay connected to Norelle’s wonderful blog –while oriented toward the Pacific Northwest and Seattle, her posts — from author interviews to book reviews to how-to articles — are great for readers and writers all over.

 

Tips for authors: The non-reading book tour

By Midge Raymond,

When my writing buddy Wendy Call and I began to plan our joint book tour for this past summer and fall, we proposed events from readings to workshops to writing-prompt sessions. And, as this Wall St. Journal article indicates, we are apparently not alone in thinking outside the traditional book tour. In fact, of the nearly dozen events Wendy and I did together, only two of them were straight readings.

We took this approach for several reasons: For one, we are two writers with quite different books that are very similar in theme; our books cover travel, globalization, and characters facing challenges, yet Wendy’s book, No Word for Welcome, is nonfiction, while Forgetting English is a collection of short fiction. So we wanted to bring readers together to offer something for both nonfiction and fiction readers, as well as to give them a chance to participate as an audience.

We also recognized that neither of us is (quite) famous enough to have fans lining up around the block. And when you are an unknown author, it helps to offer a little something beyond the book when you’re meeting your readers, most of whom will be new.

Finally, we planned to visit a variety of venues, from Grub Street  to The Writer’s Center to Boston University, as well as bookstores. And we also recognized that a bookstore event needs to draw crowds and sell books to be a win-win, and it’s up to the author as well as the bookstore to try to make that happen.

We learned a great deal — far more than will fit into a short blog post — but here are a few tips…

Team up. There are so many advantages to doing a joint book tour — and offering a little something different to participants is only one of them. And, as this WSJ article mentions, sometimes a bookseller will interview an author, which is another great idea.

Offer a workshop. Wendy and I taught several different workshops on our tour, all geared toward the themes in our books, from narrative writing to travel writing. Though we each chose sections of our books for the other to read, we also offered examples of work other than our own and included handouts and reading lists. You can also, as Wendy did at several of her solo events, offer slide shows with images that relate to your book; many authors use PowerPoint presentations as well. There are really no rules other than making the presentation engaging and relevant.

Talk about what inspired the book or certain scenes. It’s always fun to learn what’s behind the scenes of an interesting book, and by going this, you offer readers more than what’s between the pages. You’ll want to read enough to give readers a taste of what’s to come — but the idea is that they’ll be buying the book, so you’ll want to offer something they can’t take home with them.

Make time for audience participation, whether you assign a couple of writing prompts or start the Q&A with you asking the Qs. As novelist Jason Skipper says in this interview, on his recent book tour he took several fun approaches to his readings, from singing Wilco songs to inviting the audience to read with him.

Structure the event so that reading time is minimal. While Wendy and I both made time to read brief excerpts from our respective works (you definitely want to give people at least a little taste of your book), we spent only a small percentage of our event time on reading, which allowed for us to get to know our audiences and vice versa. We’d often begin with a brief reading and then conclude with one as well — this is a good way to bookend an event — but for the most part, while we were there on behalf of our books, we talked more than read.

In the end, the most important thing is that you have fun — this is something that readers will remember — and often the most fun and surprising events go well beyond the book itself.

How to write a great query

By Midge Raymond,

Norelle Done of the Seattle Wrote blog has posted the next post in her series about publishing, about how best to query agents, editors, and publishers. We’re thrilled to be part of this series; join us over at Seattle Wrote for Part 2.

And be sure to stay connected to Norelle’s wonderful blog –while oriented toward the Pacific Northwest and Seattle, her posts — from author interviews to book reviews to how-to articles — are great for readers and writers all over.

And stay tuned for more next week!